Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) claimed on Sunday’s broadcast of State of the Union that there are no “substantive rules” when it comes to holding an impeachment trial and that the Constitution doesn’t provide much guidance to the Senate.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper noted that Kennedy had previously said his objective in President Donald Trump’s impeachment is to be fair to both sides. He asked the lawmaker about Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) saying she was “disturbed” that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would coordinate with the White House on impeachment.
“Were you also bothered when Majority Leader McConnell said there would be no daylight between him and the White House?” Tapper asked.
“I think Senator McConnell is entitled to his opinion and his approach. So is Senator Murkowski,” Kennedy stated, adding that if you look at specific case law on impeachment, “the rule is there is no substantive rules.”
“It is not a criminal trial,” he continued. “The Senate is not really a jury. It is both jury and judge. The chief justice is not the judge, he’s the presiding officer. There are no standards of proof. There are no rules of evidence.”
The guidelines provided by Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution say that the Senate has the “sole Power to try all Impeachments,” the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will preside over the trial, and a president will only be removed from office if two-thirds of the Senate convicts.
Kennedy went on to say that every member of the Senate is entitled to approach impeachment any way they want until a majority of the chamber votes on passing new rules, reiterating that he wants it “to be fair to both sides.”
“I thought that the House proceedings were unnecessarily unfair and when the American people walk away from the Senate trial, if we ever have one, I don’t want them saying: ‘Well, we were just run over by the same truck twice. It was unfair in the house and it was unfair in the Senate,’” the Louisiana senator said. “I want people to think that it was a level playing field.”
Asked whether his idea of fairness would be for both House impeachment managers and the president’s team to call the witnesses they deem worthy, Kennedy said they first need to decide whether Senate will hear evidence during the trial.
“But, look, there are no rules here,” he asserted. “For example, what is an impeachable offense? I think the precedent shows that not all impeachable offenses are crimes. But it also shows that not all crimes are impeachable offenses.”
Kennedy, meanwhile, concluded by saying it would be proper for Trump to continue blocking key White House witnesses from testifying if called by Congress.
“I fully expect the president to do two things,” he said. “Claim executive privilege, which is his right. And number two, demand his own list of witnesses.”